Half a year in the land of the kiwis

The latest blog I wrote was about our sweet Sri Lankan times. Since, I've attempted several times to write about our time in New Zealand - succeeding only once (you are reading the result). 08/11/17 we flew into New Zealand, with some vague ideas about what the country would have in petto for us. At arrival our almost virgin tent, which would become our home over spring and summer, was sprayed to make sure we wouldn't accidentally import any unwanted migrants, such as alien weeds or possums. 11/05/18 we left, as so often, with mixed feelings. And in between those dates, heaps of things happened...

Hitchhiking & Jacques

We arrived in NZ, Auckland more precisely, with the thought of making our way around by hitchhiking and rideshares. In the end we did a fair bit of hitchhiking, but we made far more kilometres in our first car! In Auckland it was the first time we read through some NZ guidebooks to soon discover how many places of interest there are, already on the North Island alone (and then in our first weeks most people would keep going on about how the North Island was indeed beautiful, but the South Island so much more spectacular).

Not letting us being paralyzed be the vast amount of options of where-to-go, we decided to hitchhike for two weeks along the west coast with as first stop Raglan, a small surfing town. From there we went down to Kawhia and Kinohaku, a small hamlet beautifully located on a bay, where we helped a lady cleaning her garden full of rusty stuff. The hitchhiking was okay, but not so smooth and we decided that we were gonna buy a car, which we did earlier than expected with the help of the woman we 'worked' for and who came from a family of mechanics. The car we got was Jacques, a Nissan station wagon. With Jacques we drove further down via New Plymouth and Masterton to Wellington in order to catch the ferry south. After driving all kinds of marvellous roads in the south we took him back up to the North Island and sold him a week before we left..

In the south, the roads were simply stunning. Just driving around would already be worth a trip down here. Relatively quiet roads brought us past lakes, forests and pastures, over mountain passes and along the coast. Most of the time we were the two of us; music on and our stuff all over the car. Yet we also managed to travel with 4 for a week and took several hitchhikers - kind of obligated when you hitchhike yourself, but also good fun!

For the nights we had a tent, but the station wagon was perfect as we could sleep inside when there was somewhere a rocky underground, when there were no tents allowed, when it was freezing (one night) and when our tent got stolen (out of the car actually).

Vines, Apples and Water

One of the main reasons we came to NZ, besides the very positive stories we had heard (maybe this positive story gives you also extra incentive to go one day) and the promised scenery, was the possibility to work. After doing some work for accommodation and food in Kinohaku and New Plymouth we found our first paid job in Blenheim, the heart of vineyard country. We stayed in a hostel (still in our tent) that organized the work for us: helping out on a vineyard by taping little plants to bamboo sticks and lifting the wires that run along the vines. The hostel itself had, despite the overwhelming amount of Germans, a good atmosphere and further down the road we would meet up again with some of the 'foreign' travelers we met here (for some hikes e.g.). The work was fine, but not so reliable (which was, fair enough, also related to the time of year, ie Christmas and New Year), so shortly after New Year we left (also since we wanted to enjoy the summer as much as possible). In the meantime we had celebrated Christmas in the hostel with a large lunch and dinner; different dishes prepared by everyone.

At the end of February, the end of summer, it was time to work once more and I was lucky as by finding a temporary job at a research institute, reading and writing about the management of water within a catchment. The office I worked at was in Nelson, a town in the north of the South Island. There were only 4 colleagues, the work was flexible (meaning I could work one weekend to take some extra days off the next weekend) and they had a bike I could use to go back and forth between the office and the room we were renting. It was the perfect job. Subject wise, time wise and money wise. Meanwhile, Marleen had found a job in an apple packhouse just outside Nelson, which wasn't too bad either. We stayed 2 months, after which we were ready to hit the road once more.

Hiking (aka tramping)

New Zealand is hiking (or tramping as the kiwis like to call it) paradise: stunning scenery, 25% of the land mass being national/conservation parks and reserves, numerous trails for different levels and a huge amount of backcountry huts. Short walks, day walks and multiple day tracks - we have done a bunch of them. A few walks are, especially in summer, quite crowded. However there are still so many places where you'll just cross one other person on a full day of hiking. A short impression of some of my favourites:

Nelson Lakes - with a group of 6 we hiked up a zigzagging path and continued over ridges to the Angelus Hut, situated beautifully in an Alpine environment on a small lake - cold, but definitely fresh for a quick dive after exploring a peak near the hut. The next day we went out early to beat the forecasted rain and to make sure we would have space in the next hut. This meant breakfasts with Mordorlike colours in the sky due to the rising sun and dark clouds in the distance. Just after the steepest section the rain started. The hut was luckily empty; we lit a fire to dry our clothes and ourselves and had a perfect lazy afternoon.

Farewell Spit-Wharariki Beach - a walk crossing hilly meadows full of sheep and connecting Farewell Spit (a 20 km sand strip) with Wharariki Beach (white sand beach surrounded by dunes with seals and rock formations). The views changed constantly and the walk went along various points of interest (also accessible by car), the only spots on the track where we encountered others. Halfway we stopped to have a picnic in the sun near the cliffs, just delightful!

Leslie-Karamea-Tablelands - 9 days without crossing a shop meant we (Uki, Johann and I) had to bring quite a lot of food, resulting in a heavy backpack. The first and second day were a short and a resting day (due to bad weather), so when we set off for the challenging part we had eaten our backpacks to a comfortable weight. That third day was a big one (also because I forgot my camera, so have to go back and forth for 1,5hr. Later in China I managed to forget it again, but without finding it. Luckily most pictures were saved elsewhere). After going up and down for a bit we climbed for a while and crossed a pass, from there it was a couple more hours down and straight. How rewarding when we got to the hut that day. From here we hiked around 5hr a day leaving plenty of time for big lunches, relaxing and playing cards. The track took us along rivers, through the woods and then in the open hills via an artificial lake back to civilisation, to the amazing creation called a supermarket - what a choice. And what a walk!

And then there were quite a few more besides these three that deserve a place in this list (the volcanic wonderland of the Tongariro Crossing, from bush to beach on the Heaphy Track, etc) but I figure you got the idea of the diversity and beauty of NZ's walks.

Best bits of Aotearoa

Aotearea (NZ in the Maori language. The Maori were the first human settlers of NZ. As late as the 13th century AD did they come to here) changed fast after the arrival of the Maori and even faster after the arrival of the Europeans. Large swats of land were changed into pastures, giving the country a rural vibe.

Here is an overview of the bits that didn't fit in yet, but were among the best for me. Thinking back there was actually so much... but just to name a few: the blue colour of Lake Tekapo. Swimming and having a beer in Lake Wanaka. The waterfall walhalla Milford Sound (we had a cruise just after heavy rain). Seeing penguins and swimming with curious dolphins in Curio Bay. The forests, lake and hills around relaxed Glenorchy. Mountain carting - with a tricycle downhill over gravel. Thermal active area of Rotorua. The stand alone Mt Taranaki. And finally of course heaps of good people, both kiwis and travellers, best of all being Marleen!



PS. The Details

Since I have attempted to write a summary covering most aspects of our trip, yet also to write not too big of a text (I doubt whether that can still be said), there are not too many details. However, I tried to incorporate some details in favour of other general aspects as the details are often what makes a great place an unforgettable place. But so there are many more details and I'll be happy to share some more with you when I see you again: so lets meet up soon!




Je hebt ook nog tijd gevonden om veel moois te delen. Nu het laatste deel van je reis. Nog een paar weken te gaan. Ga daar ook onwijs van genieten, wij tellen ondertussen de dagen af XXX

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